London to Paris Bike Ride

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London to Paris Bike Ride

small_London2Paris1.jpgA Massive Congratulations to Rob Warburton who, in September, managed to cycle from London to Paris and has raised over £1,000 for HaNC!

He has kindly written his story below:

Seven years ago I was diagnosed with carcinoma on the underside of my tongue and the floor of my mouth.  Following major surgery performed by the brilliant surgeons in the maxillofacial department at Aintree Hospital I also underwent a course of radiotherapy at Clatterbridge. I subsequently experienced complications over the next couple of years which resulted in me needing to have the right side of my jaw reconstructed in 2011, using bone from my leg to replace the affected jaw bone. 

The outcome has left me with eating difficulties. Although I can swallow alright, I am unable to chew food or move it around my mouth easily. This means that my food has to either be liquidised or else cut up very small and washed down with water, tea, soup, etc., supplemented by Ensure and Fortisip drinks.

I decided last year that I wanted to undertake a challenge to raise money for HaNC and had heard about the London to Paris cycle challenge. This was something that appealed to me as I had often fancied riding around the French countryside, although I only began cycling seriously just over two years ago after I had taken early retirement on ill-health grounds.

The challenge involved cycling approximately 300 miles in 4 days, between 70 and 80 miles per day. I began training for this back in the spring, gradually increasing the distances I was riding as the months went by.  My main concern was whether or not I would be able to get enough nutrition while I was away to be able to go out and do it all over again the next day for four consecutive days.

So, on 15th September Gill and I drove down to Croydon, from where the ride was to set off at around 7 o`clock the following morning. The first day involved riding through the Kent countryside en route to Dover (the early start being needed to enable us to catch the early evening ferry to Calais). From there we had a short ride to our hotel and a well-earned night`s sleep!  The first day was probably the most difficult in terms of distance (82miles) and also because it involved a lot of climbing, over the North and South Downs to reach the coast. To make matters worse the weather was not too kind either, much of it being spend in heavy drizzle which made some of the roads and country lanes rather slippery. 

Day 2 took us from Calais to Arras in the Somme region.  Again the weather wasn`t very good in the morning with constant rain for much of the time, and the route once more was quite hilly. However, things improved greatly in the afternoon as the rain dried up and the sun came out for the first time since leaving Croydon the previous day. I was beginning to enjoy the ride a lot more as my clothes dried out as I rode through beautiful countryside and some lovely villages. This was how I had imagined cycling in France would be like before I set off.  I arrived in Arras tired and with my legs aching, but feeling immensely satisfied that I had now completed half the challenge.
​The third days ride was from Arras to Compiegne through the site of some of the First World War battlefields, and we passed by several French, German and Commonwealth war cemeteries along the route.  The rain of the previous two days had stopped (for now) and the landscape was a lot flatter. However we now had wind to contend with. Much of the day was spent riding into a 20-25mph headwind which, combined with legs that were now aching, was just as unforgiving as the first two days. Just after the afternoon water stop came the only testing climb of the day up into a forest. The effort was rewarded by a long descent down a wide winding road through beautiful forest scenery.

This all changed as I passed through the small town at the bottom of the descent. Suddenly the heavens opened and I rode the final 10 miles to Compiegne in a torrential downpour, sloshing my way along roads that were running like rivers in some of the villages. I arrived at the destination thoroughly soaked and cold. Fortunately the hotel room that night had a bath (unlike the first night in Calais which only had a shower – and no hot water!!!) and I had time to lie in there for a good half hour before the evening meal.  (I was only able to get a limited amount of food while I was away. A bowl of soup on a couple of evenings plus a small amount of cut up pasta, and I couldn`t partake of any of the food that was available at the lunch stops during the day. I did take the precaution of taking with me some pots of porridge to get me off to a good start for the day ahead. But I think it`s probably true to say that I got through the challenge on a mixture of Ensures and athlete`s Energy Gels)

I don`t think I have ever experienced such an emotional swing in so short a period of time as I did on each of the days in France. On the one hand there were the times when I was cold and soaked, my legs were aching, and I was seriously doubting if I was going to be able to complete the challenge. Then, having arrived at that day`s destination, this was replaced by a complete feeling of euphoria at having got through it and being a day nearer to Paris.

Saturday morning arrived and Paris was only some 70 or so miles away. The first part of the day was spent on cycle paths through the large Compiegne Forest, finally emerging into open countryside similar to the day before, with quiet picturesque villages along the way. Again the legs were aching almost unbearably at times, but as with the previous day I began to feel stronger as the day went on. It seemed to take about four hours of riding for the muscles in my legs to start working properly after the previous day`s effort. By the time we arrived at the lunch stop Paris was a mere 26 miles away. You could see some of the larger city buildings in the distance and the roads were becoming busier.  There were about 140 people in the group of various ages and cycling abilities, some much faster than others; so the plan was for everyone to meet at 4.30 outside The Louvre.

From there we rode as a group, escorted at the front and rear by the Support Team vehicles, along the Champs-Elysees, around the Arc de Triomphe then on to The Eiffel Tower. A fitting and memorable finish to an utterly amazing experience. But there was one more fantastic surprise still to come. For waiting to meet me in front of The Eiffel Tower was my wonderful wife, Gill, who had flown out to Paris early that morning to see me finish! We were both overjoyed to see each other after four days, and the perfect end to an unforgettable adventure! (I had spoken to Gill a couple of hours earlier at one of the water stops and she assured me that she was ringing me from outside Tesco`s in Eastham and had been for a run along the Wirral Way with some friends that morning).

I would like to thank Gill for all her love and support during my preparation for taking part in this ride. Also, to Professor Richard Shaw and his team at Aintree. I could not have believed seven years ago that I would ever even be considering attempting something like this. Finally, I would like to thank everybody who has so generously sponsored me and given me the incentive to complete what has been an incredible four days of my life.

Have a look at a couple of Rob's photos of his arrival in Paris!